Is Critical Thinking a Sin?

According to pollsters young people are leaving the church in unprecidented numbers.  The question is why?

I’d summarize it as, either schools are teaching things that blunt religious belief, or, organized religion is not reacting properly to what children learn in school.  Or, maybe both.

Children today learn critical thinking in school.  Part of critical thinking is learning to separate what is largely regarded as fact from what is considered opinion.

I would guess that when young people then go to church, or, listen to their parents, and hear teachings from the Bible considered facts but are not varifiable and thus must be considered opinion, their skepticism tenicles rise.

An example would be the virgin birth in Bethlehem.  There are many reasons to conclude this did not happen.

Here is where the Church could reach young people.  If every preacher and parent this Christmas would say, “There are reasons to conclude the virgin birth in Bethelem did not happen.  Nevertheless, it’s a warm and fuzzy idea that has been passed down and we celebrate it,”  there would be hope for the church.

Instead, such thinking is a sin in many branches of the faith. The hammer comes down on  doubt.

I visit a liberal church where much of the teaching treats the major Bible stories as myth.  The Pastor’s lessons are peppered with, “This is what I take from the story.”

Critical thinking is not a sin there and the church is doing well.  It seems so clear to me all churches should do the same.

 

 

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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27 Responses to Is Critical Thinking a Sin?

  1. entech says:

    In my daily paper it quotes from global news agency AFP. Vatican City – Pope’s Christmas speech.

    Pope Benedict XVI Saturday hailed Christ’s humility, urging the faithful to look beyond the Christmas “glitter” and “enlightened reason”, …
    The German Pope also called for a strengthening of faith over liberal reason, …
    “It seems to me that a deeper truth is revealed here, which should touch our hearts on this holy night: if we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our ‘enlightened’ reason.
    “We must set aside our false certainties, our intellectual pride, which prevent us from recognizing God’s closeness,” he said.
    The emphasis added by me.
    This clearly shows that all of those churches and pastors that you mention are quite wrong. Faith in what the original and universal church tells is all you need. To know the truth you need faith not “enlightened reason”.

    If I may misquote Shakespeare:
    There are more false certainties in heaven and earth, Benedict,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

    Hamlet, scene v

    Or perhaps my old favourite Omar has something relevant to say about a modern Christmas.
    How long, how long, in infinite Pursuit
    Of This and That endeavour and dispute?
    Better be merry with the fruitful Grape
    Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.

    You know, my Friends, how long since in my House
    For a new Marriage I did make Carouse:
    Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed,
    And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.

  2. Bob says:

    “Children today learn critical thinking in school. Part of critical thinking is learning to separate what is largely regarded as fact from what is considered opinion.” –Jon

    I liken myself to an atheist clergy you soon recently brought up Jon, but instead of clergy in church who no longer believes, I’m a K-12 teacher who no longer believes in the system.
    I don’t see any, any, any, emphasis on ANY, critical thinking of what you talk about. Just like little children in church who start asking questions and have those questions quashed, so too does that happen in schools.
    And I don’t believe you will keep an open mind to what I’m saying anymore than the fundamentalist supernaturalist will keep an open mind to anyone questioning their religion. You are indoctrinated by the Prussian education system Jon, and its too bad.
    The Prussian education sysem is not the answer.

    And as far as that liberal church you so like, check out the latest episode of Austin Texas’s atheistexperience. There lastest show, about 3/4 of the way through the episode talks about the Unitarian Universalist church and about how those kinds of liberal “churchs” are a buffer between faiths and how that is not good.
    atheist-experience.com
    Watch the latest hour long show of theirs. Like I wrote above, about three fourths of the way through they get a caller who brings up the liberal church Universalist Unitarian and how UUers look at religion, and how their outlook is detrimental and makes it more possible for fundamentalists to do damage.

  3. Henry says:

    Jon:” There are many reasons to conclude this did not happen. “

    It was even foretold before it happened. Why should there have been a surprise when it occurred and now disbelief?

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Henry 2:57 “It was even foretold…” That’s where critical reasoning comes in.

      Was what was “prophesized” cheery picked after the “birth”? Why was the birth not mentioned in the earliest gospel, Luke, but added generations later? Why is there not evidence of the return home for a census? Why is there not archeology evidence of the birth place? And, don’t get me started on “virgin birth”.

      You conform perfectly to the Pope’s message in Entech’s post. We don’t need any critical reasoning when we have faith.

      • entech says:

        Faith, hope, scripture and the Readers Digest. These will out do and prove wrong any science the world has or will know. The irony is that they will even prove the and excellent work done by the Vatican in it’s research and cosmology institutions, the Vatican trying so hard to outlive the early treatment of Copernicus and Galileo should be denigrated by the likes of Henry.

      • Henry says:

        1. “Was what was “prophesized” cheery picked after the “birth”?”

        Conspiracy theory contrary to historical record.

        2. ” Why was the birth not mentioned in the earliest gospel, Luke, but added generations later?

        It is mentioned in Luke.

        3.“Why is there not evidence of the return home for a census?”

        My relatives from Minnesota do not show up on an 1800′s census. Why? Don’t know. The results of that census remain. The one 2000 years ago doesn’t.

        4.“Why is there not archeology evidence of the birth place?

        • Henry says:

          4 Cont.)

          My grandmother’s birthplace doesn’t have any archeological evidence. Nothing. The farmstead is wiped out that was there 100 years ago. That must mean she was ficticious.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Henry 5:48 “My grandmother’s birthplace doesn’t have any archeological evidence…must mean she was ficticious.”

            If archologists had actually dug on the site where your grandmother lived, which they have not I am sure, and found nothing, that would be “Bethelem” of the Bible. From what I’ve read, and I heard an archeleogist who had been there speak a few years ago in Minneapolis, both “Christian” (paid by the Pat Robertons, etc.) and academic archeleologists have dug at in the current Bethelem and concluded they can establish what went on there for way before the 2000 years back. It wasn’t there.

            The Christian archeleologists just shrug and say, “Oh, that just proves it was somewhere in the many miles of desert around here someplace.” These Christians are powerful “critical thinkers”.

            Real critical thinking would seek corroberating evidence. It might look at motives of the writers and why the birth story was not elaborated in Luke, and why the story is not exactly the same in the other gospels when it went into details generations later. It might wonder compare the other “hero” birth stories in other religions and see how similar or how different they are. (They are quite similar, always poor parents, death by enimies, come back to life after death, etc.)

      • entech says:

        1. Prophecy is easy if you go back from the event. All references are ambiguous at best.
        2. Who really cares, they are so inconsistent, and no one knows who the actual authors were or even the dates with any accuracy. And then there are so many more than just four, who can say which are correct and which apocryphal. Or even why those particular four were chosen.
        3. The fact of an actual census is the question, and there is no evidence that it took place.
        Minnesota 1800 is totally and completely irrelevant and a dishonest addition.
        4. A self answering question the place was destroyed, that is why there is no archaeology.
        The reference to the existence of your grandmother is totally and completely irrelevant and a dishonest addition.

        • Henry says:

          1. They were actually looking forward not just backward for this specific event. Apparently Herod recognized the significance and took appropriate action.

          2. The “who cares” cop-out.

          3. Jon’s original question was where was the evidence of the return home for the census, not whether or not the census was authentic. I addressed his specific question. If my relatives can’t be tracked and recorded in a more current, modern census, how can individuals reasonably be tracked and recorded 2000 years ago? Actually, your rebuttal is completely dishonest as you probe a question not included in Jon’s original list and expected me to address your unstated question prior to it being asked.

          4. The relevance of my grandmother’s birthplace having no evidence of her birth 100 years later demonstrates the difficulty of archeology pointing out the same 2000 years later. Your rebuttal on this is completely dishonest.

          entech, based on your performance here, you should maybe read a little Reader’s Digest.

          • Henry says:

            One correction. Herod acted “in his self interest” not “appropriately” out of the prophecy news of a king.

          • entech says:

            Henry 2:41
            1. What historical record are you talking about? There is no record of anyone saying before the event that when the Romans were occupying Palestine a saviour would come, actually no one knew anything about the Romans before they conquered the area in about 70 BCE. Some people talk about Isaiah and a young girl being pregnant, not a world shattering event, but if it is to be taken as a sign a couple of chapters later he talks about ‘unto us a son is born’, is born not will be, so the prophecy had been filled about 700 years BCE.
            There is no record of mass murder of children by Herod or anyone else in this period.
            2. Hardly a cop out when you didn’t care enough to correct Jon when he said Luke was the earliest Gospel (see Long John says: December 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm). In fact even the historical sequence is disputed, who came first Mark or Mathew? Depends on who you ask, and it takes some work and imagination to reconcile the four. If there is no agreement why should anyone without a vested interest care?
            Then, of course, we have the apocryphal, the non-canonical, the Jewish and the Gnostic.
            3. Jon, “Why is there not evidence of the return home for a census?”
            Henry,” My relatives from Minnesota do not show up on an 1800?s census. Why? Don’t know. The results of that census remain. The one 2000 years ago doesn’t.”
            Me,” The fact of an actual census is the question, and there is no evidence that it took place.”
            Minnesota in 2000 or 20,000 has no connection to the original question, whether or not the result of any real or hypothetical census remains extant is irrelevant. The question is was there a census at the supposed time of the birth of Jesus and the answer to that is that it is not mentioned in any history, only in the gospel stories.
            There could be no return home if there was no census.
            4. I agree it is difficult for archaeology to confirm or deny scripture or many other things. The University of Tel Aviv started a project to verify the Exodus story shortly after the creation of the modern state of Israel, no success yet, in fact the work has demonstrated that as a chronological history the Old Testament is not very reliable. Trying to divert attention to your grandmother, a lady of importance only to her friends, relatives and successors, is not a very good or honest ploy. In fact in this I think I am showing her more respect than you do when you involve her in specious argumentation.

            I have enough wrong information in my head that I am trying to sort out and correct; much of it imposed by an education received in a situation that made religious instruction in the state religion obligatory. I do not need to add to the problem by even considering the Readers Digest.

            Don’t bother correcting me again, I will only concede that the world according to Henry and his version of is the only real world.

          • Henry says:

            1. The historical record of the Gospels.

            2. I was unsure of what Jon’s point was, so I simply indicated the birth was mentioned in Luke. Now, you task me to save Jon from himself. He has refused attempts from others. Who am I to save Jon from himself?

            3. Your intellectual dishonesty continues. What can I say? This is the world according to entech.

            4. Specious argumentation? My argument fits quite well with the problem of archeology confirming events within history. Again, your intellectual dishonesty consists of the world according to entech.

            You should really take that step up from where you are currently and get into that Reader’s Digest. If that is too much maybe start with Marvel Comics.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Henry 3:08 “1. The historical record of the Gospels.”

            One of the worst thing that has happened to Christianity is people checking the historical records of the time of Biblical events and comparing them to what is in the Bible. Really, any piece of writing from that period that does not conform to the Bible’s version of events should be labeled heresy. Then, also, when someone observes that there is no record of events outlined in the Bible, like no definitive clear cut writing from an independent source, about the existance of a “Jesus Christ of Nazerath”, that, too, should be labeled heresy.

            If we don’t stamp out these sources of history other than the Bible, the secular point of view may gain a foothold. If we keep only the the Bible as a source of what happened back then, you will be the world’s leading historian.

          • Henry says:

            “There is no record of mass murder of children by Herod or anyone else in this period.”

            As emporer Augustus said, “It is better to be Herod’s pig, than his son.”

          • entech says:

            Whatever you say Henry, whatever YOU say.
            “The world according to”, steal your own book titles that one is mine, Garp.

            Marvel comics admit to be being pure fantasy, Readers Digest and Scriptures just don’t admit it yet.

          • Henry says:

            “Marvel comics admit to be being pure fantasy”

            Thus, a good recommendation for you.

        • entech says:

          That Herod was known to have killed many of his own family is not doubted. Augustus’ remark is mentioned in a book of after dinner jokes about 4 hundred years later, it is irrelevant to the so called massacre of the innocents, and probably apocryphal
          This massacre is only mentioned in Mathew and James (although you probably do not accept the Gospel of James).
          Silly allusions to comic books ?

          Henry you can do so much better did you overindulge ? Only had an extra slice of ham and one imported beer myself.
          Here is a question – If Christianity is originally Jewish why is ham so popular at Christmas?

          • Henry says:

            Nah, no overindulgence. Just feeding you back your overused RD stick with a Marvel Comics flair.

            “If Christianity is originally Jewish why is ham so popular at Christmas?”

            Most Christians do not call anything impure that God has made clean.

          • entech says:

            That is because your God is the God of Paul, not the God of Abraham.

          • Henry says:

            Actually, both. Specific to my response, also the God of Peter.

          • entech says:

            Of course, I forgot, not Abraham Peter, Paul and Mary. I had forgotten that one had miraculously become three.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            entech 7:30 “I forgot, not Abraham Peter, Paul and Mary. I had forgotten that on had miraculously become three.”

            I’ve been to Graceland, Elvis’ home in Memphis, a couple of times. Busloads come there all day long. He and his parents are buried there and heaps of fresh flowers are placed on his grave everyday by teary eyed people. Obviously he is the fourth god, but will be rolled into the one god by decree, and described in an upcoming appendix to the Bible.

  4. entech says:

    ”The hammer comes down on doubt.”

    This is just as it should. Disbelief can be countered by belief. Doubt implies some kind of critical thinking and requires some kind of measured and coherent response; shouting – Fred: chapter 12 verse 9 is not enough and does not constitute a sensible argument. When someone quotes something about, “The fool says in his heart there is no god”, it may provoke a response from the disbeliever. But the doubter would look further and know that it was true from a secular not a religious viewpoint. The skeptic would point out that it is true, to say “there is no god”; because at the time the psalm was written such talk was a death sentence.

    The question is why should many words written so long ago by so many different people, some of it inconsistent, some of it laughable, be taken as absolute truth, as true as the Readers Digest or the Watchtower?

  5. Avatar of Long John Long John says:

    Jon, The gospels were written in this order; Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John.

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